I’ve spent quite a bit of time writing some thoughts and comments regarding a recent newsworthy item. After all of the work and thinking and praying, I’d like to compile them here so that they are in one place. It’s going to be a lengthy read! As always, I consider it an act of love toward me anytime you read what I write, and this is no exception. Thank you for once again caring about me as you tackle this monster post.
The nugget-sized version of what happened: an announcement was released from World Vision, an excellent non-profit that cares for the poorest children in our world. While they are not taking a position on same-sex marriage, they will now employ Christians from the LGBT community who are in a legal same-sex marriage. That is to say, brothers and sisters in Christ are welcome to work at World Vision.
I view this as an excellent decision. World Vision recognized that God desires relationship with all of us. People who pursue God and acknowledge Him as Lord and walk with Him, being transformed more into His likeness day by day (Christians) are welcomed as employees at World Vision. Sexuality/marriage is not a tenet of the Christian faith; it is not part of the core beliefs that Christians share. People can be equally committed to knowing God and interpreting the Bible as accurately as possible, and still come to opposing views regarding marriage and sexuality. Since it is not central to the Gospel, World Vision decided it didn’t need to be central to their employment policies.
Note: I have not nor will I state my own views on how to interpret the Bible on this topic. There are plenty of people shouting their versions, and I don’t need to add to that. I trust God to parent each one of His children. He calls all of us to be in relationship with Him and become His children, and we come as broken messes, full of self-worship and sin and destruction and death. We are so burdened by our sin and we cannot stand up under it. It destroys us and we need a Savior. As we accept God’s grace to us, undeserved given our disgusting and unholy state as fallen people, He guides us. He dwells with us, cares for us, transforms us, and grows us more and more into who He always intended for us to be. I don’t need to say “this is this and that is that!” about you… I never need my kids to “help” me parent their siblings. God doesn’t need me to stomp around focusing on naming sin or not naming it. And so I won’t. I welcome and appreciate your thoughtful comments on this post, but it would be best for you to show kindness by not stomping around announcing your interpretations either. Let’s all trust God to call us to Himself and His truth within our hearts and be respectful. I wrestle with this and you must as well… but let’s not go to that already overly-discussed point in this discussion.
The evangelical bigwigs apparently did not share my view, and several well known Christians began lobbying for the immediate rescinding of support for World Vision and the children they provide for. For whatever reason, it is trendy right now for people who really do love Jesus to turn around and treat the LGBT community as lepers; a pox upon the good societies of the world who must be contained, removed, and “fixed.” These same people proclaimed immense sorrow at all of the children who would no longer receive provisions and care because of those “evil homosexuals.”
That is ridiculous. If I pull my funding for a sponsored child, I pulled the funding for that child. If that child dies or suffers unspeakably because I refuse to care for them via the organization I no longer am willing to support and now they are no longer able to fund the programs that care for these dear children, I did that. Just me. I cannot point fingers elsewhere and say, “Well, I don’t agree with you and your decision to fraternize with THOSE people, so those kids are going to die now. So, either lose my support or stop fraternizing with THOSE people to get me to stick around.” Except that’s exactly what many people did. More than 2000 children lost support IN LESS THAN 48 HOURS. And people claimed that the gospel itself is in peril. I very much appreciate this quote from Rachel Held Evans, who meticulously documented these events on her blog:
“I have to ask: Since when? Since when has the reality that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again ever been threatened by two men committing their lives to one another? Since when have the historic Christian creeds, recognized for centuries as the theological articulation of Orthodoxy, included a word about the issue of gay marriage? Since when have my gay and lesbian friends—many of whom are committed Christians—ever kept me from loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and loving my neighbor as myself? Since when has a single interpretation of the biblical passages in question here been deemed the only one faithful Christians can have? “
Since when indeed! I am sorry to report that not even 2 full days later, World Vision issued an apology and reverted back to their former stance because they were so financially pressured that they could not place those children’s lives at risk. Despite God’s tug at them to expand their work to include all Christians who claim Jesus and demonstrate faith, they had to rescind it because otherwise, children would die. I encountered many friends who were saddened at this and then a few who felt it was a victory. After reading a comment about how Christians made themselves heard and it paid off (although it was only a few very vocal Christians who made their threats heard, not all Christians by any means), I wrote this on Facebook today:
“Forcing World Vision to revert to the previous policy is NOT A VICTORY. It is a case of evangelicalism bullying and making threats until it gets its way. I don’t trust evangelicalism for rescue from the sin that would otherwise consume my life and soul… I trust Jesus. World Vision was planning to acknowledge Christians in same-sex marriages as legitimate employees… our brothers and sisters with whom we agree on matters of orthodoxy, but may or may not agree on matters of living out our daily faith. None of the ministries I work for/with check whether my anger or my arrogance or my other sins that I struggle with DAILY are endangering their mission statement.
World Vision was faced with the impossible choice of 1) catering to bullies who threatened to pull funding to children in poverty (an area the Bible is crystal clear about) if they didn’t recant on allowing certain Christians in their doors… but all of the rest of us with our issues are still okay, right? Whew! OR 2) continuing to refuse their brothers and sisters in Christ. These were BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST. We have no right to claim whether their faith is real based on fruit in their life, etc. We do not have the eyes of God and we are not responsible for making His decisions! Although if we were, I think this is what that would look like, and I think it is terrifying.
This painted a “hot-topic issue” as a tenet of the Gospel, and it is NOT. I was heartbroken that a few angry loudmouths portrayed the body of Christ as a bunch of bullies who want our way. We are called to lay down our way and follow Jesus, and caring for children in poverty is certainly a way to do that. Heartbroken.
May I add that caring for the LGBT community is also an excellent way to lay down our way and follow Jesus. He stood with those who were oppressed and marginalized, and so many American Christians and churches have oppressed, dehumanized, and demonized the LGBT community, as if the very existence of these dear ones that God loves so much that He gave His LIFE for them is a direct attack on our personhood and morals and rules. Who else do we think we would be better off without? And since when is that a choice we should even consider? God is Creator and He is the Potter. We are just clay to be made with His hands for the glory of His name. When God calls someone to Himself, He takes responsibility for molding them into who He made them to be.
For whatever reason, the mere mention of the LGBT community makes many Christians scramble for the book of Leviticus and start bashing people with their Bibles. “You’re bad! You’re sin! You’re wrong! It says so right here!” Forgive my confusion, but when I read God’s Word, I thought it portrayed ALL of humanity as lost and broken, full of sin. Why this singling out? Isn’t that just to make ourselves feel better about our own areas of weakness? “At least I’m not like YOU!” But when we are confronted with the weight of our own sin – for me, it’s my anger and my arrogant pride that convinces me that I am better and more worthy than so-and-so because I do these things right… when we really consider the desolation of our hearts when left to our own devices and self-pursuits, we don’t have room to look at anyone else. If I come to God saying, “I’m better than THOSE people,” I’m lying to myself. But when I am honest, I come to God with my pain, my brokenness, my life mess, saying, “Here are the shreds and shards. I can’t even imagine what You can do with me… but I’m Yours and thank You so much for having me.” And that’s enough.
I think we Christians are also concerned about defending Scripture and our beliefs. We panic when we feel the Bible is questioned, and we start defending it to the death. The Bible is truth! It has no need of my defense. I need to know it well so as to govern my life by God’s principles as He leads me on the path of His way, but I do not need to defend it. God uses His Word to penetrate the hearts of men and women and to show us Himself. Why would I feel defensive? Truthfully, I don’t get defensive about the Bible because I worry that God is being misrepresented… I get defensive about the Bible when I am being misrepresented! When we panic and bash people with tidbits and verses to PROVE our faith and shut them up, we are not revealing the Lord God. We are revealing our fears that stem from any number of trigger areas. I think the biggest fear is that we aren’t any better… we are just as broken and we know it. Jesus came to save all of us and all people are qualified to choose Him. It breaks my heart that anyone would be singled out as “not good enough” to serve Him. Who among us is not completely undone by our brokenness and in need of a Savior?
I was struck by a thought today. I have often heard Romans 1 used as an example of the Bible’s stance against homosexuality, specifically verse 25: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” And I realized that it is those of us, the people of God, the Christians, who exchange the truth of God for a lie. We add to the Gospel, pretending there are more rules and more requirements and only we fit the bill for being accepted and loved by God. The LGBT community experiences HATRED from the Church. Hatred. Not from God. From His people. That is the sin, that is the lie that we have exchanged the truth to get. I can’t look beyond that because WE are destroying lives. Resorting to bullying and threats to get our way? I don’t teach my kids that whining and threats and manipulation are acceptable ways to get what they want… why would adult Christians who actually know that God is sovereign over all things and Ruler and King still think we can get away with those childish behaviors to get our way?
As you read through Romans 1, Paul writes about “they” and “them.” People like to stop at the end of chapter 1 with their pronouncements of God’s wrath on others… because if you move on to Romans 2, Paul starts writing much more personally with “you” and “you all” and “we.” Ouch. Check out Romans 2:1-4: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
Yep, there it is. God is God and we are NOT. It shows contempt for God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience with me when I pretend I am any different than the “theys” and “thems.” He knows I am not. He knows where I was when He rescued me. And I know where I was when He rescued me. I know what He is working on in my heart right now. And He doesn’t yell and stomp and say, “You’re bad! You’re sin! You’re wrong! It says so right here!” as He beats me up with my Bible. He points to truth and who He is and He reaches for me in relationship and calls me to walk WITH Him, out of darkness into His glorious light.
Once we Christians are reminded that ALL have sinned, we take a step back and move to discussing the difference between sinning and staying in sin. Again, I think this has more to do with our fears… we WANT there to be a big difference between the sins we commit and the sins you intentionally commit in your obvious hatred of God and His ways. But that’s a big assumption… to imply that your sin is intentional and indicates hatred of God, isn’t it? There ARE people who actively defy God and turn their back on Him and refuse to listen to His voice calling to them. There ARE people who choose their way and just don’t care what pain and heartache they inflict on others or God… they want what they want. But who are we to say that others aren’t JUST as burdened and crushed by the consequences of our sin nature? Aren’t we all struggling under the brokenness of our world, our families, our hearts, ourselves?
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, He was regularly confronting those who told everyone else how they had to live God’s way. They were Pharisees, experts of the law and the Scriptures, and they had added so many rules to the Law that God had given that it was crushing people to try to adhere to all of those extra rules. It was done out of a desire for safety: “God says this, but if I take it further and require THIS from myself, I won’t ever break God’s Law because I won’t even break my version of God’s Law!” Jesus was very harsh with those who considered themselves experts on how to love God and serve Him best. I used to be one of those people, and God dealt with me on that issue as well. In contrast, Jesus showed compassion and mercy for those who came to Him in their brokenness and were honest enough to recognize their need for His help. As God’s people, we Christians are failing in devastating ways because we are not offering the world and one another that compassion and grace; we are harsh about the rules.
I’ll leave you with this thought: When I pray about this, which I do regularly because I am horrified at how the Church at large, and especially the American church, has treated the LGBT community and how I myself have been complicit in that, I often try to probe God for hints at how to best interpret His Scriptures. “Just tell me what You mean! I’ll go with You, just point me!” Because I want to be right. Like a wise Father, He doesn’t play that game with me. He doesn’t hand me easy answers so I can be right. He lets me wrestle with His Word, fight with it, engage with it. It becomes alive and I come to it again and again looking for answers to my questions and discovering that I’m asking the wrong ones. I think a better question would be “What would you have me do?” And when I ask that, I hear the same thing every time.
It is from Acts 10 where Peter is repugnant to share the good news of Jesus with anyone who is not Jewish. Peter reasoned, non-Jews (Gentiles) don’t follow the same rules! They don’t know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! They are beneath us – we are God’s chosen people! So God spoke to Peter in a dream. God showed Peter a giant sheet coming down from heaven full of animals that were considered unclean by Jewish law. And a voice said, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” Peter refused, stating that he had never eaten anything impure or unclean! And God said, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” That happened 3 times, and then Peter woke up.
Peter’s dream wasn’t really about animals. God was sending someone to bring Peter to some Gentiles who needed to know the good news that Jesus was the Messiah, the One to bring justice and the Kingdom of God. Peter would not have been willing to tell them because he viewed those Gentiles as lesser than him. So God addressed that. And that is exactly what He says to me when I pray about this.
“Jaime, do not call anything impure that I have made clean.” I cannot see people’s hearts. I can’t see who He has made clean. I don’t have that information and I never will because I AM NOT GOD. I need to trust Him to be Him and to teach me how to build relationships with others, just like He does, so that I can walk with them be with them on their journey to which He calls them. He has made me clean, and that is truly remarkable.